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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2014


In the second half of the third century bce Roman historical epic (notably that written by Naevius and Ennius) and Roman historiography (notably that of Fabius Pictor) came into being at roughly the same time. Whether and in what ways these two literary forms may have mutually influenced each other in their early development is a matter of debate, but it is obvious that there are both similarities and a generic difference, demonstrated by the use of prose or verse respectively and the accompanying style. Such characteristics enable a distinction between different types of narrative, even if the same events in Roman history are covered.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2014 

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1 On the relationship between Fabius Pictor and Naevius, see e.g. Suerbaum, W. (ed.), Handbuch der Lateinischen Literatur der Antike. Erster Band. Die Archaische Literatur. Von den Anfängen bis Sullas Tod. Die vorliterarische Periode und die Zeit von 240 bis 78 v. Chr. (HLL 1) (Munich, 2002)Google Scholar, 364 (with further references); on the connection between epic and historiography, see Leigh, M., ‘Epic and Historiography at Rome’, in Marincola, J. (ed.), A Companion to Greek and Roman Historiography (Malden, MA, and Oxford, 2007), ii.483–92Google Scholar; on the presence of historiographical topoi in Virgil's Aeneid, see Rossi, A., Contexts of War. Manipulation of Genre in Virgilian Battle Narrative (Ann Arbor, MI, 2004)Google Scholar.

2 Only key aspects of this long-standing discussion can be mentioned here. Almost all passages from ancient authors adduced as examples in what follows have been much discussed in a variety of contexts; the extensive bibliography on each has informed this article, but cannot be summarized in each instance, especially when differences in interpretation of individual scenes do not affect the main thesis proposed here (see also n. 9).

3 Translation from Halliwell, S. (ed. and trans.), Aristole. Poetics (Cambridge, MA, and London, 1995)Google Scholar.

4 For recent analyses of this passage, from different points of view, see Krebs, C., ‘A Seemingly Artless Conversation: Cicero's De Legibus (1.1–5)’, CQ 104 (2009), 90106Google Scholar; Woodman, A. J., ‘Poetry and History: Cicero, De Legibus 1.1–5’, in From Poetry to History. Selected Papers (Oxford, 2012), 116CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 Cicero also discusses the writing of historiography in De oratore (2.51–64). In contrast to other interpretations, Woodman, A. J., Rhetoric in Classical Historiography (London, 1988), 70116Google Scholar (repr. as Cicero and the Writing of History’, in Marincola, J. [ed.], Greek and Roman Historiography [Oxford, 2011], 241–90Google Scholar; defended in Woodman, A. J., ‘Cicero on Historiography: De Oratore 2.51–64’, CJ 104 [2008], 2331Google Scholar), has highlighted that Cicero only insists on impartiality, and does not present ‘truth’ as such as opposed to ‘fiction’, since historiography also demanded the powers of invention. Doubtlessly, ancient historiography was meant to be rhetorically shaped, but it still seems to have been seen as a genre that could convey ‘what had happened’ more than other literary genres. See e.g. P. A. Brunt, ‘Cicero and Historiography’, in Marincola (this note), 207–40 (originally published in ΦΙΛΙΑΣ ΧΑΡΙΝ. Miscellanea di studi classici in onore di Eugenio Mani [Rome, 1980], i.311–40Google Scholar; repr. with minor additions in Brunt, P. A., Studies in Greek History and Literature [Oxford, 1993], 181209Google Scholar).

6 See e.g. White, H., Tropics of Discourse. Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore, MD, 1978)Google Scholar. For an overview of this discusssion, see e.g. Korhonen, K. (ed.), Tropes for the Past. Hayden White and the History/Literature Debate (Amsterdam and New York, 2006)Google Scholar, which includes Hayden White's ‘Historical Discourse and Literary Writing’ (pp. 25–33).

7 See esp. Miller, D., ‘Comments on “Epic and History”’, in Konstan, D. and Raaflaub, K. A. (eds.), Epic and History (Malden, MA, and Oxford, 2010)Google Scholar, 411, 423.

8 See also White (n. 6), 121: ‘Historians are concerned with events which can be assigned to specific time–space locations, events which are (or were) in principle observable or perceivable, whereas imaginative writers – poets, novelists, playwrights – are concerned with both these kinds of events and imagined, hypothetical, or invented ones.’

9 There have been three recent collections of papers on various aspects of the relationship between poetry and historiography, but they pursue different questions. Contributions in Levene, D. S. and Nelis, D. P. (eds.), Clio and the Poets. Augustan Poetry and the Traditions of Ancient Historiography (Leiden and Boston, MA, 2002)Google Scholar, discuss how Augustan poetry interacts with the traditions of ancient historiography. The opposite – the influence of epic poetry on classical historiography – is studied in Foucher, A., Historia proxima poetis. L'influence de la poésie épique sur le style des historiens latins de Salluste à Ammien Marcellin (Brussels, 2000)Google Scholar. Articles in Miller, J. F. and Woodman, A. J. (eds.), Latin Historiography and Poetry in the Early Empire. Generic Interactions (Leiden and Boston, MA, 2010)Google Scholar explore the influence in both directions and analyse the presentation of the same motifs and scene structures in poetry and historiography. The questions asked in Konstan and Raaflaub (n. 7), with the focus on ‘epic and history’, come closest to what is investigated here: it is acknowledged that there are elements of ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’ in both genres and various combinations of the two. At the same time, there is considerable emphasis on the role of a record of the past (in different forms) in society and less on the literary analysis of the texture of epic.

10 See Zipfel, F., Fiktion, Fiktivität, Fiktionalität. Analysen zur Fiktion in der Literatur und zum Fiktionsbegriff in der Literaturwissenschaft (Berlin, 2001)Google Scholar.

11 On the relationship between ‘reality’ and ‘narrative’ in historiography and the role of literary models, see Pelling, C., ‘Intertextuality, Plausibility, and Interpretation’, Histos 7 (2013), 120Google Scholar (with references to previous contributions to this discussion).

12 On the views of ancient critics on gods in epic, see Feeney, D., The Gods in Epic. Poets and Critics of the Classical Tradition (Oxford, 1991), 556Google Scholar.

13 ARD fr. 7 Cardauns = August. De civ. D. 6.5.

14 See Bareis, A., Fiktionales Erzählen. Zur Theorie der literarischen Fiktion als Make-Believe (Göteborg, 2008)Google Scholar.

15 On ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’ in early Roman epic, see S. M. Goldberg, ‘Fact, Fiction, and Form in Early Roman Epic’, in Konstan and Raaflaub (n. 7), 167–84.

16 On this topos in historiography, see e.g. Marincola, J., Authority and Tradition in Ancient Historiography (Cambridge, 1997), 6386CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 T 1 = F 21 FRHist: Eutr. 3.5 / Oros. 4.13.6–7.

18 E.g. Naev. Bell Poen., F. 3 FPL 4 = 29–30 W.

19 E.g. Naev. Bell Poen., F. 25, 5, 6, 20 FPL 4 = 2–4, 5–7, 8–10, 19–20 W. Where exactly this section was positioned and how it was introduced are still matters of debate owing to the fragmentary and ambiguous evidence (see the summary of views in Suerbaum [n. 1], 113–14).

20 Translation from Kaster, R. A. (ed. and trans.), Macrobius. Saturnalia (Cambridge, MA, and London, 2011)Google Scholar.

21 See e.g. the overview of views and arguments in Suerbaum (n. 1), 114.

22 E.g. Cic. Acad. 2.51; Schol. Pers. Prol. 2–3.

23 On the structure and stylistic shape of Ennius' Annales, see now Elliott, J., Ennius and the Architecture of the Annales (Oxford, 2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

24 Gell. NA 12.4: Enn. Ann. 268–86 Sk. = 210–27 W.

25 Translation from Bailey, D. R. Shackleton (ed. and trans.), Martial. Epigrams (Cambridge, MA, and London, 1993)Google Scholar.

26 E.g. Serv. on Virg. Aen. 1.382; M. Annaei Lucani Comm. Bern. on 1.1.

27 For a summary of discussions about the meaning and relevance of this passage, see Schmeling, G. (with the collaboration of A. Setaioli), A Commentary on the Satyrica of Petronius (Oxford, 2011)Google Scholar, ad loc.

28 On the character of Silius Italicus' historical epic, see also R. D. Marks, ‘The Song and the Sword: Silius's Punica and the Crisis of Early Imperial Epic’, in Konstan and Raaflaub (n. 7), 185–211.

29 Translation from Duff, J. D. (ed. and trans.), Silius Italicus. Punica (Cambridge, MA, and London, 1934)Google Scholar.

30 Polyb. 10.3.3–6; Sen. Ben. 3.33.1; Val. Max. 5.4.2; Flor. Epit. 1.22(2.6).10.

31 Nep. Cato 1.4.

32 For a more detailed discussion of these scenes, see Manuwald, G., ‘Epic Poets as Characters: On Poetics and Multiple Intertextuality in Silius ItalicusPunica', RFIC 135 (2007 [2008]), 7190Google Scholar.

33 On the relationship between ‘reality’ and ‘literary models’, see Pelling (n. 11).

34 See Zipfel (n. 10).